Nearly one third of all cyclists in the Netherlands who are severely injured in a bicycle crash sustain head and/or brain injury. More than 800 cyclists per year sustain head and/or brain injury in a collision with a motor vehicle. In addition, more than 2500 cyclists per year suffer from head and/or brain injury after a crash or a fall not involving a motor vehicle (bicycle-only crash). In 86% of the cases the head injury of a cyclist is (also) brain injury.
A bicycle helmet offers the best possible protection against head injury for impact speeds up to approximately 20 km/h. The use of a bicycle helmet reduces the risk of severe head injury by more than 65%. The more the impact speed exceeds 20 km/h , the more the protective effect of the helmet declines.
SWOV has calculated that a mandatory bicycle helmet use for young children in the Netherlands can lead to annual savings of 5 road deaths and 140 serious road injuries. For older cyclists mandatory helmet use can lead to annual savings of also 5 road deaths and 220 serious road injuries. On the other hand, such a compulsory measure may reduce bicycle use, which could be negative for public health and the ambitions in the area of accessibility, liveability and sustainability.
This fact sheet presents a survey of the scientific facts about bicycle helmets. More general information about the safety of cyclists and possible measures can be found on the SWOV web page Bicycle.